The Square Cut Saw Track





Introduction: The Square Cut Saw Track

About: Desktop Support Technician by day. Rock Drummer by night. DIY Home Improvement Enthusiast. Maker of whatever I can imagine in between it all. Professional level napper. I have a full workshop in my basem...

Here's something you probably don't know about me ... I don't have a sliding miter saw. Here are some other things you probably already guessed ... I do have a regular miter saw; I don't really have the space for a sliding miter saw, let alone a second miter saw; I rarely have the need for a sliding miter saw, and I sure the hell don't want to pay for a sliding miter saw.

Looks like it's time to make a solution ... and then fix the fence on my large table saw sled.

Step 1: The Parts and Layout

You've probably seen a track saw, and they are awesome ... awesome at being expensive. You've probably also seen a saw board. In fact, I was making a conventional 4' one when I thought to myself, "Self, You need to make me a sandwich. But after that, you need to modify this design so we can cut up that sweet 12" wide board that the miter saw can't handle."

Sorry, I got distracted. We'll focus on the modification. 1/2" plywood which I cut down to 10 1/4" x 18". A strip of 3/16" hardboard cut to 1 3/4" wide (left it long). and another piece of 1/2" ply that was 1" wide and around 10 1/2" long (left it long).

The offset to the left of my circular saw blade is 5" so I scored a shallow line at 5 1/8" on a table saw. I'd recommend going a little more then the offset for a cleaner first cut (I know I should've gone with 5 1/4"). This shallow line is an alignment line and a trick I found on youtube.

Step 2: Glue and Screw the Rail

Slap on some glue, line up your rail with the shallow cut, and throw a screw in one end. Now dial in the other end and make sure you use a square for verification. Drive some more screws. I used # 6 1/2" wood screws and I predrilled the hardboard with countersinks. I trimmed off the excess hardboard at this time.

Step 3: Cut the Edge and Attach the Stop

The next step was to run the saw down the board against the rail. I didn't get a picture because I needed both hands. This makes the edge of the board parallel with the rail and custom fit to your saw (like any saw track).

Now the modification. We want to attach a stop to the bottom of this board and we want it to be square. Turns out my framing square ... wasn't so square, so it failed at its only job in life. I used a speed square, which actually did its job, but you could use a combination square or a framing square that doesn't suck.

I lucked out and this end was already square so I used my table saw fence to help me keep it all flush while I slapped on some glue, fired a few pin nails and then secured it all with a few wood screws. I trimmed off the excess on the tablesaw at this time.

Step 4: Brand It

You've probably noticed that I stencil my name on all my shop made jigs and that is because I want to (and my friends are thieves) ... simple. I don't do it to my tools because I never know when I might want/need to sell them and I don't use them on job sites. Anyway .. stencil, black spray paint, quick shot of lacquer on top so the boiled linseed oil doesn't pull the paint out (because it does).

Step 5: Ready to Cut

You're done and ready to cut that board baby!! This one is pretty accurate, but it's more for breaking boards down to more manageable sizes anyway.

What makes it better than the plastic version I could buy for $13?   I can throw a clamp on this and the weight of the saw is supported the entire length of the cut, so Ican run the saw with my left hand while supporting the off cut with my right hand, which eliminates pinching/kickback risk I'd normally encounter.  Also, since the offset to the blade is already calculated into the track, I don't have to measure my saw shoe every time (because I forget the offset) and add to my measurement, etc.  Just mark my desired cut position and put the track there.  It also didn't cost me $13.



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    20 Discussions

    Great idea and easy to do. Might have to make one myself.

    An even quicker version of this idea - nice.

    In step #1, you scored a light line as an alignment trick? Is that just for mounting the guide? Why would you not just use a square and a pencil? Is it so you have a more permanent mark that shows if the guide goes out of alignment?

    3 replies

    I saw someone do it and wanted to try it to see if it had any advantages. It didn't really.

    you missed the last step. run your saw down the other side of your guide while using the part of the saw base to the right of the blade. this way your guide can make cuts from either side of the saw base. also write on the guide with arrows showing where the drop is. I know it sounds stupid, but it only needs to help you once pointing out which side of the line to cut.

    2 replies

    That is a viable option for sure. I'm not going to do it for a few reasons.

    1. The other side of my saw has a 1 1/2" offset so I'd have to balance the weight manually and since I'm nowhere close to perfect, I'd end up with an angled cut.
    2. I want more than 1 1/2" on that side so I have room to clamp while avoiding the motor housing.
    3. The saw cuts flush to the track so if my keeper piece is to the right, I'll just add 1/8" for the kerf. I cut a little long anyway when breaking down stock.

    I made a set of these years ago. if you make the guide the right width then you can use both sides and not have collisions with your clamps. they will be wider than yours, and based, of course, on the dimensions of your saw. I find many times I want to cut on either side because of space restrictions at the workplace. 1½" is adequate to keep your saw level and square if you have a decent saw that hasn't been dropped.

    Great 'ible; great twist on a traditional guide board.
    "Turns out my framing square ... wasn't so square". You probably know that there is a way to true up a faulty square, but just to mention it here: take a punch and a hammer and look for the diagonal formed by the encounter of the horizontal and the vertical arms of the square. You ought to hammer down a depression on the metal. If the depression is near the inner side of the square, it will open a little. If you hammer near the outer edge of the metal, the angle of the square will be reduced slightly.

    2 replies

    I didn't know what, but I'm sure going to try it. I appreciate that info.

    Try this (no pictures though):
    Better this one:

    Very nice instructable!! I am vastly reducing the amount of space I can work in and this will help things out a lot.. I'm going to build one of these for sure! Right after I make myself a sandwich! :-)

    I like this a lot. I have a set of saw guides that I made using hardboard for the base and 1x for the guide rail. problem with mine is that after a couple years they've warped so now it's time to make another. This time i'll use 1/2" ply for the base and hardboard for the guide. shouldn't warp this time around.
    I also been wanting to make a guide just like this to use with my router as a dado jig.
    couple cutting notes. these are both things i got off home improvement shows so nothing i can take credit for. I don't have a table saw (or a sliding miter saw) so these guides are how I make most of my cuts.
    whenever possible i try to make sure that the waste side is completely supported so that you don't get chip off when the waste board drops. usually what i do is put a couple scrap 2x's on my table and the put the cut board on that and set the saw depth so that it only goes 1/8" into the 2x's. I've seen some suggestions to use some 2" rigid insulation under the saw but I've always been afraid that the insulation will dull the saw blade. my only problem is that i have to be careful to stop the saw at the end of the cut so that i don't knick the table. I know there are ways to prevent this but my table is pretty beat up so i don't worry about it to much. if i'm cutting anything wider than a foot i'll lay it on the ground and will kneel on the board while i cut so it's really not that often that i'm cutting on the table anyway.
    my other trick is to score the cut line with a utility knike after you've clamped down the guide. makes for a cleaner cut. I'll often be in a hurry and don't want to take the time to swap out the saw blade with a finish blade so this will still give a good cut for pieces where the final edge needs to be clean and square, but doesn't need to be perfect.
    (i really like your router table by the way. i have a crappy craftsman table to works ok but i'd really like somethign better)

    1 reply

    I'm surprised the hardboard warped. I made a 4' track using this 1/2" ply and it has some cupping, but I put the crown up and since I clamp it to my work, it isn't an issue (yet). Part of that was the veneer/grain orientation, but I was working with on hand materials. Those are some great tips that I'll definitely use.

    I started with a $99 Skill table, but the switch died and it's mostly plastic. I built this table specifically for cutting the bearing edges on drum shells, but it has become my second most used tool (right behind the table saw), as well as an out feed table and assembly table. If I had to do it again, I'd probably use laminated plywood for the top instead of melamine because I'm getting some minor chipping on the edges, even with the plywood edging/banding. Also, I wouldn't worry about make the router slide to the center of the table because it isn't necessary.

    If you are interested, here are the build galleries for the beast:

    Router Table:

    Concealed Landing Gear:

    The lift design is by John Heisz, whom I follow on youtube and I purchased his plans.